Erik Zarnitz, Sydney Benter Leave TV Airwaves

Oct 18, 2017

Look for a change in the weather at WLWT-TV, and a new co-anchor for WKRC-TV's 10 p.m. news on WSTR-TV (Channel 64).

Erik Zarnitz, weekend meteologist for seven years, left Channel 5 on Friday. Sydney Benter, the North Bend native who came home from Terre Haute three years ago, anchored her last newscast here Friday before heading to Austin's KXAN-TV.

"Erik has been a valued member of Cincinnati's Most Accurate weather team since September 2010, and has left to pursue other opportunities as of Friday, October 13. We certainly thank him for his contributions during his time with WLWT News 5 and wish him nothing but the best," says Branden Frantz, Channel 5 president and general manager.

Steve Norris
Credit Provided by Steve Norris

Veteran meteorologist Steve Norris will fill in, along with help from staff meteorologists Kevin Robinson, Randi Rico and Ashley Brown, Frantz says.

Zarnitz is the second forecaster to depart the station since Frantz started as general manager in December. Jennifer Schack left in May.

"We will be introducing a new meteorologist in the near future, but they were not recruited from our previous search this past summer. No exact date for this announcement has been determined," Frantz says.

It is unlikely that a replacement will join the staff before November ratings "sweeps" begin next week on Thursday, Oct. 26.

Zarnitz, a New Jersey native who came here from Dayton's WDTN-TV, deferred comment for now. "I'm on vacation with my family for the next week or so. Will be happy to discuss when I get back," he told me in a Facebook message Tuesday afternoon.

Benter, a 2007 Taylor High School graduate, was hired as an anchor-reporter by Channel 12 in 2014, as Kit Andrews was leaving the station. She had co-anchored the 10 p.m. news on WSTR-TV with Brad Johansen.

She's leaving Cincinnati (TV market No. 35) for a better job in a slightly smaller market (No. 39). After November sweeps, Benter will become the main news anchor at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on KXAN-TV, and the 9 p.m. news on the sister CW station, according to CBK Media Management, where she is a client.

Time Warner customers here first saw her in July 2012, anchoring news on Terre Haute's WTWO-TV, when Time Warner picked up the Indiana NBC station during a contract dispute with Channel 5. Benter had been hired as the main news anchor in Terre Haute immediately after graduating in 2011 from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

"I'm looking forward to joining an award-winning team with such a strong commitment to quality storytelling. In a day and age when news is available 24 hours a day and in 140 characters or less, KXAN's in-depth, investigative approach sets it apart from all the rest," said Benter on the CBK Media Management website.

"I'm excited to join the KXAN News family and work alongside some of the best in the business. There's a clear mission to deliver important, relevant content to viewers and I want to help advocate for families and neighbors in Central Texas. I've heard rave reviews about how vibrant and eclectic Austin is and I can't wait to explore my new home," she said.

On Friday, she had praised her Channel 12 colleagues "some of the best storytellers in the business."

"I've had a lump in my throat all day and a tissue nearby at all times. This has been such a special time in my life and I'm so thankful to have connected with viewers in my hometown," she wrote on Facebook.

In another post, she said: "Grateful to have worked in my hometown alongside some of the best storytellers in the business. Being a part of this team has changed my life forever… I will forever cherish the people I met and memories I made during the last three years at LOCAL 12, WKRC-TV… Cincinnati is my home, but adventure outside of the I-275 loop awaits."

Benter could not be reached for comment. No word yet from Channel 12 managers on if or how she will be replaced.

In Austin, Benter will be working again for Nexstar, which owns WTWO-TV. She'll see at least one familiar face in the newsroom - former WXIX-TV investigative reporter Jody Barr joined KXAN-TV in July.